2020 Christian Reading Challenge: My Big, Fat Book List!

By Elizabeth Prata

I love to read. But as much as I love it, my fleshly sinful nature will rear up to divert me from any wholesome activity, even one I love. My eyes tire more quickly too as I've gotten older so I struggle against the pull to just watch TV. I motivate myself to maintain this important habit in a number of ways. One of them is doing Tim Challies' Christian Reading Challenge for 2020. He sets out a four-tiered list of themes to match with books you choose. You also choose the pace at which you want to read them. I chose Avid Level, reading 1 book every two weeks. His list is below. You can see the themes.

This year, I found that filling the list for some themes was a lot harder than it had been in the past. First, the theme of "A Book Published on the NY Times Bestseller List" was a tough go. The books either on the fiction or the non-fiction list were not to my taste, let's just leave it at that. Interestingly, the book I chose for that theme last year to kick off the challenge in January was still on the list, Where the Crawdads Sing. Good for Delia Owens!

Also, I was severely disappointed with the theme of "A Book on the ECPA Bestseller List". (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association). Dutifully, I scampered over to their website eager to find a selection of good books, but alas, it was not to be. The winner for 'book of the year' was Embraced: 100 Devotions to Know God Is Holding You Close by Lysa TerKeurst. Lysa is not recommended.

The ECPA winner in the Biography category is a hagiography lauding Dallas Willard. Dallas Willard is definitely not recommended.

The ECPA winner of the year in the Devotions category is a book by Ann Voskamp. Ann Voskamp is not recommended.

The winner in the Family category was a book by Russell Moore. There are a lot of issues with Dr. Moore and I would not recommend him.

So 4 of the 13 books on the winner list of the ECPA were IMO not trustworthy for Christian consumption, or 30%. And one or two of those were authors of which I did not have any information, so the stats might even go higher. Needless to say, I put a line through that theme and substituted another of my own design. Here is the December ECPA bestseller list, so you can see the cesspool that it is:

I'm so glad my haunting of The Special Store (a vintage estate sale resale store near me) is paying off. I find a lot of books there, for 50 cents or $1. Many on my list below came from there. Anyway, I browsed my own shelves and came up with a near complete list of books to read this year.

Light, 1 book every 4 weeks:

A Book Recommended By Someone Else: TBD
A Biography: Moody: A Biography, John Charles Pollock
A Christian Novel: Send Down the Rain, Charles Martin
A Book About History: Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill, Candice Millard
A Book Targeted At Your Gender: One-Minute Inspirations for Women, Elizabeth George
A Book About Christian Living: Just Do Something, Kevin DeYoung
A Book With At Least 300 Pages: The Life of Moses, James Montgomery Boice
A Book About Theology: What is Reformed Theology, RC Sproul
A Book About From A "Best Of 2019" List: American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson
A Book More Than 150 Years Old: The Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs
A Book On The ECPA Bestseller List
Substitute: A Book on Reformation Heritage Books list: How Can I Serve God at Work?
Ray Pennings
A Biography For Children Or Teens: A Pilgrim Who Made Progress, William Deal
A Book Of Your Choice: Fireside Book of Dog Stories, Intro by James Thurber
13 books

Avid: 1 Book Every 2 Weeks:

A Book About Church History:Church History 101: The Highlights of Twenty Centuries
by Sinclair B. Ferguson , Joel R. Beeke, et al.
A Book Written By A Puritan: The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, Samuel Bolton
A Book By Or About A Missionary: Profiles in Evangelism, Fred M. Barlow OR One Faithful Life, John MacArthur
A Book About Theology: Concise Theology, JI Packer
A Book You Think Will Make You A Better Person: Contagious Christian Living, Joel Beeke
A Book Recommended By A Family Member:  TBD
A Book That Looks Easy To Read: A New Day, Anita Bryant
A Book Published In 2020: American Dirt, Jeanne Cummins
A Book On The Current New York Times List Of Bestsellers: The Guardians (12/2019)
A Commentary On A Book Of The Bible: Lamentations: Bible Study Commentary (Bible Student's Commentary), Dan Kent
A Book Of 100 Pages Or Less:  The Grace of Repentance, Sinclair Ferguson
A Book Of Your Choice: A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass OR Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
A Book That Won An Award: The Yellow House, Sarah Broom
26 books

I 'shopped' my own shelves for these, but there are a few I don't own. American Spy, American Dirt, Send Down the Rain, The Yellow House, but these are ones I can easily get at the Library. I'm actually really looking forward to those. It took me a long time to select them and I have high hopes for a readable, well-written time with these stories.

I enjoy Charles Martin books, and I'd forgotten about him. I'm glad to renew my acquaintanceship with his latest book. I feel fortunate, some of these I own are out of print or hard to find.

The 'Book on NY Times Bestseller list' was a tough go as mentioned. When Christmas break began I got Grisham's "The Guardians" from the Library and read it. It's still on the Bestseller list 2 weeks later, so I am counting that one for that theme.

I always try for at least one classic per year, so I'll read either the Frederick Douglass or Joseph Conrad books.

I put the Anita Bryant autobiography on the list because I'm curious about her. I remember her stand against homosexuality in the 1970s as a professed Christian, formation of the Save our Children political coalition, and the gay lobby that came after her, big time. I don't remember the details but I remember it was a huge fight at the time. Her career, marriage, and finances subsequently crashed.

The story behind the Save Our Children is really interesting, for which Bryant was the spokesperson. Here is an introduction on Wikipedia about it. BTW, the book A New Day is Bryant's own attempt to crawl out of the hole that situation put her in and redeem her career etc. From reading the reviews I understand critics are widely divided.

Anita Bryant was a former beauty queen (Miss Oklahoma) and singer, spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission, and popular Christian author of books such as Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, Amazing Grace, and Bless this house. It's been 42 years since then, a generation, I think it's safe to start taking another look at that historical moment through an objective lens.
Save Our Children, Inc. was a political coalition formed in 1977 in Miami, Florida, US to overturn a recently legislated county ordinance that banned discrimination in areas of housing, employment, and public accommodation based on sexual orientation. The coalition was publicly headed by celebrity singer Anita Bryant, who claimed the ordinance discriminated against her right to teach her children biblical morality. It was a well-organized campaign that initiated a bitter political fight between unprepared gay activists and highly motivated Christian fundamentalists. When the repeal of the ordinance went to a vote, it attracted the largest response of any special election in Dade County's history, passing by 70%. In response to this vote, a group of gay and lesbian community members formed Pride South Florida, now known as Pride Fort Lauderdale, an organization whose mission was to fight for the rights of the gay and lesbian community in South Florida. 
Save Our Children was the first organized opposition to the gay rights movement, whose beginnings were traced to the Stonewall riots in 1969. The defeat of the ordinance encouraged groups in other cities to attempt to overturn similar laws. In the next year voters in St. Paul, Minnesota; Wichita, Kansas; and Eugene, Oregon overturned ordinances in those cities, sharing many of the same campaign strategies that were used in Miami. Save Our Children was also involved in Seattle, Washington, where they were unsuccessful, and heavily influenced Proposition 6—a proposed state law in California that would have made the firing of openly gay public school employees mandatory—that was rejected by California voters in 1978. Historians have since connected the success of Save Our Children with the organization of conservative Christian participation in political processes. 
So those are my books. I am also intending to finish In a Different Key: The Story of Autism
by John Donvan and Caren Zucker that I put on my list for 2019.

Thanks for reading! Here are some random photos of books I have, just because, lol. I learned that Instagram has a hashtag called #bookstagram where people post photos of them reading or their books etc. It's good to know I'm not the only one. Hey, it's multitasking, two hobbies in one! Tomorrow, take a tour of my office and my bookshelves with me.


  1. What is it about the authors Max Lucado, Robert Morris, Gary Chapman & Henry Cloud, that you don't care for?

    1. Smiley, Max Lucado holds to some doctrines that undermine the faith, such as baptism is necessary for salvation, eternal security may or may not be important, and ecumenism especially with Catholics.

      Robert Morris is a Word-Faith preacher.

      Chapman's cottage industry of books based on his first book, 5 Love Languages is Psychology 101 not biblical and his emphasis on languages actually can mask fleshly temptations and selfishness. It's self-help that sends people off away from the Bible.

      Henry Cloud:Psychologist, not a theologian, and it shows.

      My comment about the top-50 list of books being a cesspool was rather more aimed at Lysa TerKeutrst, Sarah Young, Rachel Hollis, and the like.


Post a Comment